Minnesota's deer-hunting firearm season opens on Saturday and hunters will once again be able to donate deer carcasses to food shelves and food banks.
This is the sixth year that Minnesota will pay approved meat processors who cut up and package venison for food shelves.
Hunters who want to donate must take their deer kill it to an approved processor. The state pays processors $70 to butcher and package the venison. The state also scans the meat to make sure it doesn't contain high levels of lead from ammunition.
State officials say pregnant women and young children should avoid eating donated venison because it could contain low levels of lead not detected by the scanner.
Last year hunters donated 421 deer to food shelves, about 40 fewer deer than the previous year and considerably lower than 2008 when hunters donated 650 deer to the program.
The decrease in donations is likely due to smaller deer harvests, said Nicole Neeser, who manages the state's venison donation program. But she says need for the venison hasn't diminished.
"We still have food shelves that are very excited to participate," Neeser said. "There's food shelves that really do depend on this as a good source of protein for the people they're distributing food for."